Brenda Burman can’t wait to get started as the next commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, the first woman to hold that position in the department’s 115 years.
It’s been more than four months since she was nominated by President Trump, but the U.S. Senate finally confirmed Burman on Thursday evening. Burman will be in charge of a department that she knows well, having served as Reclamation’s deputy commissioner, the bureau’s No. 2 position, during President George W. Bush’s administration.
The Bureau of Reclamation is responsible for managing 475 dams and 337 reservoirs and doling out water to agricultural and residential users, as well as producing power from 53 hydroelectric power plants.
Burman, who heads to Washington after serving as Salt River Project’s director of Water Strategy and as executive water policy adviser since 2015, was nominated on June 26 to lead the agency. Burman’s confirmation hearing was held July 20 and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee reported her out favorably by voice vote on Aug. 3.
“I am excited to get started and serve again with the Bureau of Reclamation,” said Burman. “The men and women of Reclamation have helped the West work through our most difficult water issues for more than a hundred years. I look forward to working with Interior Secretary (Ryan) Zinke and the administration and with Reclamation’s contractors, partners and customers to solve our most pressing water issues.”
Associate General Manager Dave Roberts, SRP’s chief water executive, described Burman’s selection as Reclamation commissioner as “another win for Arizona and the West.”
“We are extremely excited for Brenda and, while we will really miss her expertise at SRP, we know she will be a great asset to the Trump administration,” said Roberts. “Brenda has worked for nearly 20 years on Western water matters, including tribal water settlements, the Colorado River and other river basin issues. Her previous experience at Reclamation and her knowledge of Western water issues will be a tremendous asset for Arizona to have in Washington.”
SRP is arguably the oldest and one of the most successful Reclamation projects since its inception in 1903. Today, SRP is the largest raw water supplier to the Valley, delivering about 800,000 acre-feet annually to agricultural, urban and municipal water users as well as serving more than 1 million electric customers as the nation’s third-largest public power utility.
SRP and the Bureau of Reclamation this fall are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 1917 operating agreement in which the Salt River Valley Water Users’ Association — which acted as a liaison to the U.S. Reclamation Service — received operational control of SRP’s water and power facilities. In the Association’s contract with the federal government, the U.S. retained title to the dams, canals and hydropower plants, and SRP remained a federal reclamation project and was able to use power revenues to reinvest into the project. The Association still operates the canals for the federal government.